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Levet Victorious at Loch Lomond

The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond have played host to many tales of emotion, drama and delight over the years so it was highly appropriate that Thomas Levet laced his sensational victory in The Barclays Scottish Open – a win which also guaranteed him a place in next week’s Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon - with elements of all three.

The 35 year old produced one of the rounds of the year to triumph, a fantastic eight under par 63 seeing him come from seven shots adrift at the start of the day to pick up his third European Tour International Schedule title and in the process move to third on the Volvo Order of Merit with €994,291 (£668,674).

In the end Levet posted a 15 under par total of 269 to win by a shot from New Zealand’s Michael Campbell with England’s David Howell and defending champion Ernie Els of South Africa joint third on 13 under par 271. However the mere statistics do little justice to the theatre which unfolded before the bumper crowd of 16,830 spectators which helped swell the attendance for the week to a record 67,740.

The emotion and delight came for Levet as he spoke with BBC television presenter Steve Rider at the end of his momentous round. Fighting back tears, the Frenchman said: “A win is fantastic and superb and everything, but playing in the Open is something else.”

Two years ago at Muirfield of course, Levet almost won the Open himself before Els pipped him in extra holes after the regulation four-hole play-off had failed to separate the pair. Although that performance guaranteed him a place in last year’s Championship, it was not the case this year and he faced a week off, until the win changed all that and he took the one spot available from the week.

“All the people out there know what I did two years ago and they are still behind me,” he said. “They are all out there and they still remember and that was still in the back of my mind as I was coming to the end of the round.”

The Frenchman went on to show exactly what the support of the galleries meant to him in a wonderful moment at the prize giving ceremony where he instructed a piper to play Flower of Scotland before conducting the audience in an impromptu singalong of the host nation’s national anthem.

In the final round, Levet made what was to be the winning thrust on the back nine and in particular from the 11th to the 14th where he notched three birdies and an eagle three at the 13th to propel himself into contention.

At the same time, his nearest challenger, Campbell, dropped two shots in a row at the 14th and 15th to suddenly give the Frenchman the lead. He still knew he needed one more birdie to give himself an additional cushion and that was where the drama arrived.

In practice at the 18th, it had been Levet’s intention to take a three wood from the tee and play safe around the Loch, but in the heat of competition he knew had no option but to take the driver and aim straight over the stretch of water to the distant fairway beyond. His bravery was rewarded though with one of the tee shots of the day, but it still left a tricky second to a tough pin placement.

With the yardage perfect for an eight iron, Levet took dead aim and struck a beautiful approach shot to three feet above the pin. His slippery, downhill putt was not made any easier by a nearby golf cart whose reversing alarm went off just as he took address, but the Frenchman regrouped perfectly and rolled in the putt for a sensational birdie three.

Coming behind, Campbell repaired some of the damage done at the 14th – where he had tried to drive the green but ended up in the water and at the 15th where he took the rough and sand route to a bogey five – with a birdie three at the 16th.

The New Zealander, who almost a year ago claimed his sixth European Tour win in the Nissan Irish Open, knew he needed one more birdie to force a play-off and give him the chance of his own magnificent seven, but it was not to be. He faced a ten footer at the last but the ball swung away from the hole and the title was Levet’s, Campbell finishing with a 70 for a 14 under par total of 270.

“I couldn’t believe the putt at the last,” said Campbell. “I read it dead straight and it broke a hole right to left but that is just the way it goes, just the way the cookie crumbles. I am looking forward to next week though. It was good to get a bit of confidence back in my game.”

Before Levet and Campbell broke clear to become the main protagonists, there was no way of predicting where the title was going and indeed, at one point midway through the afternoon, five players shared the lead on 14 under par and 16 players stood within four shots of the lead.

One of the group of five was Howell but, playing with Campbell, the Englishman made the same mistake as his partner at the 14th, missing the green on his way to a bogey five.

Ernie Els
Following a bogey six at the 13th, where he had to take a penalty drop, it effectively signalled the end of his challenge but he bravely birdied the 15th and produced three pars to finish for a 70, a 13 under par total of 271, and his fifth top 15 finish in his last seven starts.

“Just two shots cost me really,” he said. “But it has been another fantastic week though. You have to put yourself in the mix and although it wasn’t my turn this week, maybe it will be soon.”

Defending champion Els also threatened during the middle of the final round but when he drove into the rough at the 12th and made bogey five and failed to birdie the par five 13th, he knew his chance of winning The Barclays Scottish Open for a third time had realistically disappeared.

“I hit a couple of bad shots today but I know what I have to work on for next week at least and I can take a little bit of form there,” said the South African. “At least I am in a lot better form than I was on Thursday so hopefully I will have a good week.”

Marcus Fraser
The last pairing out on the course in the final group were Australian Marcus Fraser and Frenchman Gregory Havret who, as well as wanting to win, were, like Levet, keen to take the additional prize of the Open spot.

But it was not to be for the duo, who failed to find the spark which had propelled them to a share of the lead after three rounds, Fraser carding a 73 for a share of fifth place on 12 under par 272, while Havret posted a 74 for a share of tenth on 11 under par 273.

“It was disappointing really,” said Fraser. “I played okay but just didn’t make the clutch putts that I had been making. A few nerves and a few butterflies and I just didn’t stand up to it. But I know I can put myself in these positions and hopefully the next time I can come through.”

Havret was naturally disappointed but magnanimously took time out to praise his fellow Frenchman who, following the successes of Christian Cévaër (Canarias Open de España), Philippe Lima (Aa St Omer Open) and Jean-Francois Remesy (Open de France), ensured that for the first time France has crowned four different winners in one season on The European Tour.

“I am so happy for him,” said Havret. “It is great and he is a fantastic player. I knew that he was not pleased with his putting over the first three days but he did say he felt he was close to doing something great and I think he did that.”


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